FEAT_MikeConnolly_0917_JoekVeak

NO MONEY MIKE

At those first Occupy powwows, Connolly remembers being "too shy to speak." His fiancée, Kacy Karlen, confirms his bashfulness, but says her soon-to-be husband has since emerged from his gigantic shell. "When he started campaigning, he was having a hard time," says Karlen, a web editor for a Cambridge education nonprofit. "He hadn't gotten his message fully crystallized. Now he knows how to interact with voters, and how to talk about what they're interested in. It's not the same guy who I was out collecting signatures with."

Working the streets off Broadway in East Somerville, Connolly wins over several voters, from a pair of artsy young women with nose rings, to a lifelong local named Joe who looks like he just lost a bar fight. But after a fruitful talk with a young father, a senior standing on his front porch claims to be an "old friend" of Toomey's, and mocks Connolly's idea of not raising money. The candidate remains positive; he knows that certain Somervillians will instinctively reject his ideas — namely, any plans to further connect the city to Boston and Cambridge.

Over the course of the afternoon, Connolly is asked to distinguish himself from Toomey on a number of issues, and he has plenty of ways to do so. While the incumbent was the only Cambridge rep to support expanded gaming, for example, Connolly is "unequivocally" opposed to casinos. Locally, Connolly favors proactive expansion of northbound transit routes, as well as an immediate overhaul of the hazardous scar that is the McGrath Highway overpass. "Somerville was bulldozed and torn up for I-93," says Connolly. The challenger charges that Toomey should be more aggressive in securing state funds to expedite an inevitable bridge replacement. "These people have been asked to bear the burden for everybody else's transportation."

Though he's a proud progressive who recently discussed his no-frills campaign with Noam Chomsky — in person — it's not hard to picture Connolly in the House chamber among lawmakers. In addition to his all-American look, he's an upwardly mobile professional who drives a Volvo and supports Liz Warren — the kind of domesticated Occupier that the media typically ignores. At the same time, as a uniquely independent legislator, Connolly would certainly stick out on Beacon Hill — for his size, for his far-left positions, and for being the first state pol in recorded history to win without a war chest.

"It took some leaps of faith to actually do this, but I'm having the time of my life," he says. "I want to change the culture of acceptance when it comes to political bribery, and so far, it seems to be working. I walk up to people, ask them for no money, and most of the time, they don't give me any.

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